Wednesday, December 28, 2005

My oddzballs

I vaguely read somewhere this week that women are the emerging market for cool gadgets. Duh...!! Most of us have known that for YEARS, particularly as mobile technology has actually become mobile and useful.

Because i love, love, love gadgets and have decided that 2006 is a year to enjoy, I have just bought these little handmade oddzballs guys.

I loathe my current clamshell mobile phone (another gadget story entirely) however, i have decided to cute it up for the new year and have some fun.

Monday, December 26, 2005

This is what i didn't get for Xmas (but wanted very badly). Sigh...maybe next year? I thought i had left enough not-very-subtle hints around, but clearly not!

iDog -- just what i needed to cheer me up and keep me company during those looooong, lonely hours in front of the computer.

woof woof ..

When i was a kid in the 1970s, my white-booted and mini-skirt wearing mother wouldn't buy me a barbie doll. While at the time i felt unloved, i now thank her. However, for all those like me (with uber-feminist mothers and a hidden lust for consumer toys), you might be interested to know that contemporary girls have a different fascination with barbie, but one that still recognizes her iconic position. They play with her, but not in the ways in which i thought i wanted to as a kid.

One of my favourite blogs, Techie Diva Girl's Guide to Gadgets has a story (and the great 'dead barbie' pix) on the ways in which little girls ceremonially and methodically destroy their barbie dolls. Research undertaken at the University of Bath (and reported by SkyNews) showed the strength of animosity towards poor old, middle aged barbie and the myriad (and gleeful) ways in which charming little girls (and boys) torture, dismember and destroy her. Fascinating stuff!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Profoundly bored

Profoundly bored with blogging....need a break to do some thinking and stuff....will be back.....

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Digital companion

I read some productivity advice the other day. You can get back about a day a month of your working time by only reading your email twice a day. Twice a day! I live and/or die via email. While i know that many young people see email as an oldies technology, it is how i structure my work, keep my overseas family under control, keep records of important 'conversations', construct carefully thought out responses to nasty communications, and maintain the long-distance relationships with friends and colleagues that have become so important to me in a strange land. While demonstrating how embedded this form of digital communications has become in my life, this also means that the twice-a-day productivity email rule is very difficult to observe.

However, this little rabbit might be the answer. S/he's wifi connected to the internet and does cool stuff like wiggle ears or light up when email arrives. S/he can also update you on the weather or traffic conditions and facilitates sending personal messages (e.g. you can move the ears on your bunny and the ears on your friend's bunny --in the room next door or in another country -- will also move, showing that you're thinking of him/her). Higly functional, directly linked to maintaining personal affinity networks, and importantly, FUN! Also a tricky transfer across on and offline spaces. (I'm not sure how the cute little bunny will help me be more productive, but at least it recognizes the importance of email and online relationships in my life...and it makes me smile).

Friday, September 23, 2005

Turning Pages project at the British Library

The British Library has been developing a really useful resource, turning much loved and rare classics into online texts. The great thing about the Turning Pages project is that the books are available in their original format (e.g. Lewis Carroll's classic 'Alice's Adventures Underground' can be seen in his original handwriting) and the technology used makes it appear that you can actually turn the page. In addition, there is a printed form, plus an audio version.

More information can be found on the BBC online news service or, of course, at the British Library website.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Creative boxes

Wow, talk about mixing creativity, play and digital cultures! Have a look at the Box Doodle Project -- you take a cardboard box, play around doing something creative and arty with it, take a digital photo and upload it to the site to create a collective gallery. Thanks for Boing Boing for the link.

THIS is the kind of affordance that is SO POWERFULLY provided by digital media. Makes possible rapidly developing, evolving (and possibly, just as quickly, disappearing) affinity groups. Online communities made possible by shared interests, creativity, play and digital technologies.

We need more of it!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The digital dream

The new ESRC Seminar Series "Play, Creativity and Digital Cultures" held its first meeting over the weekend at Lincoln. A brilliant group of people in a room together. It was sheer bliss.

Lots of debate and discussion around theories of play and what we understand play to be in relation to digital media, enhanced by presentations by Margaret Mackey, Julia Davies and Jackie Marsh.

My important contribution to the event was to share my knowledge of beautiful laptop bags (note the connection to digital cultures). All of us schlep laptops, PDAs, cameras, mobiles phones, iPods and whatever else we use to 'live the mobile dream'. However, until recently it was very difficult to find stylish and functional bags to carry it all in. For gorgeous and functional bags, try StyleMaven and MobileEdge!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

I have tried very hard to keep this blog focussed on issues of relevance to digital literacies, however its been a looooong summer and they're so cute, who could blame me?

Introducing the cactus friends. Are they cute or wot??

Friday, August 26, 2005

I have been reading Mizuko Ito's new edited collection "Personal, portable, pedestrian: Mobile phones in Japanese life" (edited with Daisuke Okabe and Misa Matsuda).

The first paragraph of Mizuko's introduction notes:
In contrast to the cellular phone of the United States (defined by technical infrastructure), and the mobile of the United Kingdom (defined by the untethering from fixed location) (Kotamraju and Wakeford 2002), the Japanese term keitai (roughly translated, "something you carry with you") references a somewhat different set of dimentions. A keitai is not so mcuh about a new technical capability or freedom of motion but about a snug and intimate technosocial tethering, a personal devide supporting communications that are a constant, lightweight, and mundane presence in everyday life" (2005, p. 1).
Sounds pretty exciting doesn't it? I am loving it!!

Given that mobile technologies are becoming so embedded in everyday life, this is an important piece of work that foregrounds the ways in which technologies are taken up in the everyday and located in complex crossroads of culture, politics, economics and culture.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Well, shiver me timbers...

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum....International 'Talk Like a Pirate Day' is coming up fast -- less than a month to go until 19th September. We live in a world that is often way too serious, so when the opportunity to join a collaborative and well-intentioned day of pleasure and play comes up, we should all grab it!

As the website says:

Talking like a pirate is fun. It's really that simple.

It gives your conversation a swagger, an elán, denied to landlocked lubbers. The best explanation came from a guy at a Cleveland radio station who interviewed us on the 2002 Talk Like a Pirate Day. He told us we were going to be buried by people asking for interviews because it was a "whimsical alternative" to all the serious things that were making the news so depressing.

Pirate HQ in the United Kingdom is at

There are worse things than being a pirate for the day. Aarrr!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Dress up your iPod

I love my iPod. It absolutely deserves these must-have accessories.
will give your iPod moveable arms and legs. How can you possibly consider another day without arms and legs for your iPod?

Of course, if you are more worried about your iPod during the long, cold winter, then you need this iPod 'hoodie' (also from

For even more personality, Chuckles Central has these lovely knitted bunny numbers.

However, if you want to create something more personal for your iPod, apparently knitting iPod holders is very fashionable right now. If you're so inclined you should try's iPod sock
or SskeinS' iPod cover.

I do, in fact, have a point here. One of the emerging trends in relation to mobile technologies is the capacity to personalize them. You can bling your mobile phone, knit for your iPod, decorate your laptop.

This is an interesting and important phenomenon linked, i think, to the important role that digital technologies play in social practices, social networks and constructions/portrayals of identity in contemporary society. The Guardian recently reported on the rapidly increasing uptake of mobile technologies by women, however the practice of personalization extends beyond this group.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I blog therefore I exist

I've been thinking about blogs this week. I've spent an inordinate amount of time trekking tirelessly in search of blog sites that interest me. Frankly, most don't. However, that's not the point.

There are a multitude of blog genres emerging -- personal journals, journalistic sites, commercial blogs. video and photoblogs and aggregate sites. It's like watching evolution in fast forward. According to David Sifry, the number of blogs online have doubled in the past five months, which means that there is a blog created every second somewhere in the world. Of the 88,000 blogs that are created every day, around 55% are active. The point is that more text is being produced by more people than anytime in human history!! (Take that all you doomsayers who claimed that the internet and digital technolgoes would kill 'traditional' skills and practices....they're still there but are also evolving. Civilization as we know it is not ending).

Why are we all going blog crazy? There are a lot of reasons. I could cite loads but here's just two: the affordances of the technology enable and encourage it; the rapid embedding of digital technologies across all zones and cultures makes it an increasingly valued social practice. However, this last week as I've been clicking through blog and blog after blog, I've been thinking that there is one thing that brings all these other reasons to a sharp point (in all but the really commercial sites): the need to be heard. A couple of sites bring this home strongly -- there's one called "This is me writing...I write..then I EXIST" (the title says it all) and "PostSecret"(where people anonymously post their darkest secrets).

There's still lots of interesting work around identity and identity politics to be done in relation to online activities and cultures. And, of course, there's loads of implications for those of us who work in the field of literacy -- what else are literate skills for if they're not about enabling each of us to be heard?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Special edition - digital literacies

A Special Edition of Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education on New childhoods and youth: New literacies will be released in September 2005. Edited by Jackie Marsh and myself, the edition includes papers by Doug Kellner, Helen Nixon, Carey Jewitt and others, along with an interview with Gunther Kress (by Eve Bearne). From a range of research-based and theoretical perspectives, these papers all focus on the implications of new forms of text and new childhoods in a contemporary context.

This edition makes a significant contribution to outlining the parameters of the key debates and issues which form the context of this emerging field. For those interested in the changing landscape of literacy education and the sociology of literacy, this is a must-see issue!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Mobile phone for kids?

This is the about-to-be-released TicTac Cellphone for kids. Not so long ago we began analyzing the cultural relevance of the mobile phone toys given to kids.

Toys provide a lens into what is valued in adult culture and provide a way to enculturate children into technologies and cultural practices. At the same time, the toys of an era provide an insight into the prevailing narratives of childhood and children.

The mobile phone is now so entrenched in the everyday that phones are being produced for kids from 6 years of age. However, this model (which looks very much like a tamagochi to me) has features which limit its use -- for example, no keypad, one-way txting (in, not out) and control of phone numbers. These limits say quite a lot about the ways in which the relationship between children, technology and adult control is being played out (at least in the minds of designer and marketers). It will be interesting to see if a 'dumbed-down' technology (for all it's tamagochi-like cuteness it lacks the functions that most kids will associate with phones) will be greeted with enthusiasm by kids who have been given mobile phone toys since birth and who see them in use all around. Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Heavenly dolls

This is my current favourite place to spend time. I could explain it in terms of identity, avatars, blah blah blah. I could also make a case for the movement of offline children's activities online with all the implications for blurring of boundaries. I could talk about shovelware and echo Ted Nelson's arguments about the way that computers have been used to merely simulate paper culture. But really, I just like going through their wardrobes to see what kind of shoes and accessories the 'dolls' have.

Very therapeutic.

For more, go to Paper Doll Heaven

Thursday, August 04, 2005


(c) 2005 Darren Hester (cc) SA-NCIncreasing attention is being paid by educators to the rise (and rise) of digital texts and the impact of the affordances associated with new technologies. One that comes to mind is a change to the way we understand authorship. In a print-centric universe, the BOOK is a delineated piece of text. It has a beginning and an end and a clearly defined set of authors. The book itself is a cultural artifact with a physical presence in the everyday.

The certainty around this arrangement is becoming a little shaky I think. Have a look at wikibooks and see what you think. These are multiple authored, continuously edited and updated, online books. There is no delineated end, no strictly defined set of authors and while still a cultural artifact, one with a quite different physical presence.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

What does this mean for the ways in which we see academic work and the production of texts and papers? What does it mean for classroom teachers who depict the act of authorship in quite specific ways both culturally and technically.

Given that one of the key outcomes of new digital technologies is now being understood in terms of social networking and the ways in which the young construct and conduct their social worlds, what does social or community authorship mean??

I know, more questions than answers, but geeze they're interesting questions.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Open Tech 2005

Open Tech 2005 took place in London this weekend.

Last year's forum focused on unexpected uses of technology; this year's was more focused on online activism with a particular focus on copyright issues with forums featuring, for example, Cory Doctorow, European Affairs Coordinator for the Electronic Frontiers Foundation.

Ted Nelson (inventor of hypertext) gave an overview of the development of computer software. At one point he noted that computer software in it's current form was the result of "psychological concessions to what we are used to rather than what we need" and at another that "today's computer world is based on trekkie misunderstandings of human thought and human life"

Ted's regret is that computer software has evolved to simulate paper rather than becoming something much more useful and empowering. I found this insight really interesting in relation to debates over kids' use of digital media. See also Kevin Kelly's article in Wired Magazine - he reports on Ted and his vision of hypertext.

Key phrases:
geeking out (waaay to much geek-speak)

passive aggressive modification (what IT people do to you when you you want something and they don't care)

Key fashion:
the UTILITY KILT was the must-have male fashion item.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

My life as a pokemon -- online quizes

You'll be pleased to know that if (and i repeat 'if') I were a pokemon, I would be Magikarp. Sadly, this species is in decline. Hopefully, I was an ancient Magikarp rather than a modern one. How do I know this? I took a quiz. Quiz sites are BIG NEWS these days. [Brief aside: There are some people who bemoan the drift of kids towards online/digital texts and away from print. Good news: the internet is FULL OF TEXT. These quizes are just one genre]. If you're interested in doing one (and how could you not be?), try Quizilla.

129: Magikarp - In the distant past, it was
stronger than its horribly weak descendants
that exist today.

Of the Original 150, Which Pokemon Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

This digital world

Many of us are arguing that children and young people are what Marc Prensky called 'digital natives'. That is, that kids are growing up in a world saturated with digital media and digital texts and as a result are developing skill sets around digital literacies in ways that earlier generations did around print. We oldies remain, sadly, 'digital immigrants', always attached by an invisible umbilical cord to the mono-modal literate practices of our own school days. Personally, I have started to think of myself as more of a 'digital asylum seeker'.

Reflecting these issues, there's a debate (see Boing Boing) over how young the youngest MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) is with claims being made for kids as young as 8.

The photo is of an 18 month old who can already pull down her favourite website from the bookmarks and is almost in full control of the mouse! You go girl! In case you're interested, her favourite site is CBeebies and within that, the Balamory pages.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Digital Literacies Research Day

Wow.....if you missed it, poor you! The UKLA research day on digital literacies (held at Bath University on 7th July) was brilliant (if i do say so myself). The day's speakers were all phenomenal (Mimi Ito, Julian Sefton-Green, Carey Jewitt, Kerri Facer and Jackie Marsh). Each of them tracked key issues in the move into digital media and digital literacies. For a full report on the day stay tuned to the UKLA website!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Upcoming event on digital literacies

UKLA (United Kingdom Literacy Association) Research Day on Digital Literacies is coming up on 7th July 2005 in Bath, UK (followed by the International Conference).

This event brings together Mizuko Ito, Julian Sefton-Green, Keri Facer, Valerie Walkerdine and Carey Jewitt to speak about the impact and potentials of digital literacies and new communications technologies.

What makes this particular event particularly interesting is it's focus on new literacies and children. If you're a researcher, educator, publisher in the fields of childhood, education, literacy, ICT this is a key event for 2005.

For more information, contact me, email or go to the UKLA site!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Global Voices Online

In Manchester recently, Vint Cerf was talking about the future of the internet. He had some interesting things to say about the ways in which the internet is having a social and political impact. While there are always links to the repertoires of literate skills and practices each of us needs, his talk has prompted me to think more closely about the changing nature of political engagement in contemporary societies and the ways in which online cultures and technologies may be involved. One positive example of the potential of the internet to facilitate social and political change is Global Voices Online: "an international effort to diversify the conversation taking place online by involving speakers from around the world, and developing tools, institutions and relationships to make these voices heard". Check it out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Agrrrr pirates ahoy!

I move between the UK and Australia frequently. In both places i have legitimately purchased (and continue to legitimately purchase) DVDs. I tell myself that i am collecting 'classics' (anything that contains Oliver Platt; anything that Tarantino has ever touched; 'Lake Placid' (believe me, it will one day be appreciated). The point is, no matter why i think i buy DVDs, i buy them, i have a receipt, i use them in line with the rules/regulations.

Why then can i only play them a few times on my laptop/computer before a big, scary screen comes up telling me that i am about to have my area fixed in perpetuity?? For more info on DVD zones, see DVD Zones and Maps.

Apparently this is because there are pirates who must be stopped from copying DVDs from one area and selling them in another. I AM NOT A PIRATE. Like millions of other people, i buy DVDs, i travel, i have a laptop. My right to view the product i have legitimately purchased is being unfairly restricted.

Makes me wonder who the real pirates are.

BTW: Pirates still sail the seven seas. The Weekly Piracy Report has an update on current piracy. A little more attention to this kind of piracy might be useful.

And ... speaking of pirates, don't forget ... September 19 is International Talk Like A Pirate Day

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Must-use terms

Must-use new words from

to lose one's job because of one's website

"mac guyver'd"
to make something useful out of a multitude of completely useless things (finally, a term to describe my life's mission)

"habbo hotel"
a virtual hotel used for chatting to and meeting other people on the internet

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Safe blogging

BBC News online recentlly carried a story about an Iranian blogger jailed for 14 years for posting critical comments on the Iranian authorities' treatment of other bloggers. Associated with this imprisonment is a government crackdown on access to blog sites.

Its timely, then, that Electronic Frontier Foundation has released advice on how to blog safely How to blog safely (About work or anything else)

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Textual landscapes

Examples of urban textual landscapes. These are from the Mission District in San Francisco.

Orphaned works

I have been writing a paper on blogs. When I attempted to contact the copyright holders of each blog, it turned out that they were 'orphaned'. This has made getting copyright permission a little tricky.

This has led me to spend more time thinking about copyright in academic works than, I have to admit, would be usual. The use of printed texts in academic works has been relatively straight forward - correct citation, limited amount of text, academic purposes etc. etc. As we move further into online research, the issues are becoming a little more difficult.

There's the issue of orphaned works, described by the Stanford law School Center for Internet and Society as "works whose copyright has not expired but which are no longer available" are a growing issue for those of us whose research focuses on digital texts and technologies.

As well as this, there are issues to do with the different copyright conventions applying (in the non online world) in relation to the use of graphics/pictures than those applying to print. As more and more texts now blend graphic and print to make meaning, the issues of copyright become more pressing.

Kahle versus Ashcroft is an important US based case where copyright extension and renewal are being challenged -- with massive implications for online and orphaned works.

The outcome of Kahle versus Ashcroft has implications for us all. In case you're interested in the background to this case, Brewster Kahle is on a mission to create a digital archive that has been compared to the ancient library at Alexandria.

Sunday, January 09, 2005


I was in Belfast recently. It struck me as I was wondering around that in a world of high stakes political rhetoric and ongoing conflict, that there is one tie that binds us all. Anxiety. This photo brought this home to me unexpectedly.

Real life: Not real life? Is there any real difference?

I had an interesting conversation with a 12 year old boy today. We were discussing a planned shopping expedition -- previously one of his least favourite tasks. Today however, he seemed more enthused. He asked if he could buy a new shirt. This interest in fashion was intriguing in a boy who until the day before had shown scant interest in issues of personal style.

Yesterday: On a tourist outing to a neighbouring town, we had wandered into a local shopping area. When asked if there was anything he was interested in, he immediately identified a very funky pair of white casual sneakers with blue trim and various artistic strips of velcro--the very type of shoe he scoffed at only a few months earlier. The shoes were described as "deadly" and swiftly tried on and purchased. This incident was interesting but I associated it more with the sudden awakening of image-consciousness that goes with early adolescence. This view seemed confirmed with a follow up conversation about hair. He suggested that it was time for him to get a haircut and perhaps to do something interesting with the color. Black would be a cool color.

Today: Our conversation about shopping actually seemed to engage him but in a way I wasn't expecting. He suddenly wanted me to come with him to view his Sims character (X-BOX game). He had created a Sims avatar who wore baggy jeans, the exact shoes he had chosen yesterday and with jet black hair. The only difference was the avatar's long sleeved white fitted shirt. THIS was what he wanted to look for on our shopping trip. This seems more than the usual image-consciousness of blossoming adolescence.

My question: Is this 12 year old shopping to clone a Sims character or has he created an avator to reflect aspects of himself? If there's a difference, does it matter?

This episode raises, for me at least, interesting questions about identity projection and construction, gender and the potential of in-game characterizations as a space for building new and alternative identities which may (or not) be lifted into the world outside the game.

I think there are interesting discussions to be had here about the dynamic connection between identity construction and projection. It is one thing to construct identity, but like literacy, it's raison d'etre is to DO something which leads us to the importance of projection in relation to identity. The other aspect of these discussions and consequent shopping expeditions is the blurring of the line in the sand between in-game and out-of-game identity constructions and projections.

Interest in these issues can be seen emerging from quite different directions. Gonzalo Frasca from the Georgie Institute of Technology muses on about the potential of The Sims characterizations as a vehicle for dealing with ideological issues and social conflict. At the same time, recently noted research efforts at USC and MIT to modify The Sims to provide language immersion environments for foreign language learning. A crucial aspect of the success of programs such as these would have to be the depth of identification with avatars/characters that players construct -- which leads me back to my story about the 12 year old and his Sims/self construction and projection.